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Urinary Incontinence - Is It a Woman's Little Secret?

By Nicole Sell  •   September 12, 2022
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Mar 23, 2023

Urinary Incontinence - Is It a Woman
Urinary Incontinence - Is It a Woman's Little Secret?

Women have long been taught to keep silent about their bodies and their health, especially when it comes to embarrassing or taboo topics. Urinary incontinence is one such topic. For years, it was considered a "woman's problem" and something to be ashamed of. But the truth is that urinary incontinence is not just a woman's problem. It affects men as well.

Roughly twenty million American women and six million American men experience urinary incontinence at some time in their lives, and yet, the silence surrounding this issue persists. Why? Because we are still uncomfortable talking about our bodies and our health.

But the more we discuss urinary incontinence, the more normal it will become. And that's important because the only way to find treatments that work is to start talking about this issue openly and honestly. If you are affected by urinary incontinence, know that you are not alone.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. It can be a temporary problem, or it can be a long-term condition. There are different types of urinary incontinence, and the type you experience will depend on the underlying cause. For some, urinary incontinence can be a minor annoyance. For many however, it can be a significant problem that interferes with their quality of life. Kegels exercises have been shown to also help.

There are two main types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles that support the bladder are weak or damaged. This can happen due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or surgery. When these muscles are weakened, cough, sneeze, or simply laugh, urine may leak out.

Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, is the second most common type of urinary incontinence. It occurs when the bladder muscles contract too often or without warning. This can cause a strong, sudden urge to urinate, even if your bladder isn't full. You may leak urine before you can get to a bathroom.

There are also other types of urinary incontinence, including mixed incontinence (a combination of stress and urge incontinence) and functional incontinence (when an underlying condition, such as arthritis, makes it difficult to get to the bathroom in time).

Signs of Urinary Incontinence

There are several signs that you may be suffering from urinary incontinence. These include:

• Leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.

• Feeling a strong urge to urinate even when your bladder is not full.

• Waking up multiple times at night to urinate.

• Difficulty holding your urine until you can get to a toilet.

• Feeling like you have to "go" more often than usual.

If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is important to see a doctor. Urinary incontinence is a treatable condition, but it will not go away on its own.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Women

Several factors can contribute to urinary incontinence in women. These include:

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Pregnancy and childbirth are amazing processes that can bring new life into the world. However, they can also take a toll on a woman's body, weakening the muscles that support the bladder. This can lead to stress incontinence. While it is often temporary, it can be a nuisance and even embarrassing. There are some things that can be done to help alleviate the symptoms, such as pelvic floor exercises and avoiding constipation (which can worsen the problem).


Menopause is a natural transition that typically occurs around age 50. It marks the end of a woman's reproductive years and is accompanied by hormone changes, including declining levels of estrogen and progesterone. The hormones that support the bladder can cause both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.


Being overweight or obese puts extra pressure on the bladder and can lead to urinary incontinence. Managing your weight through a healthy diet and exercise plan can help to keep your bladder healthy. If you carry extra weight, even a small amount of weight loss can help reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Fat tissue also produces hormones that can affect the bladder's health, so losing weight may also help reduce urinary frequency or urgency.

Diseases and Health Conditions

Urinary incontinence can be a symptom of many psychiatric and physical diseases. Conditions that can cause urinary incontinence include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and stroke. In some cases, urinary incontinence may be the first sign of a more serious condition, such as cancer of the urinary tract. Urinary incontinence can also be caused by side effects of medications, such as diuretics, sedatives, and nerve-blocking drugs.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Men

Urinary incontinence is not just a problem for women. Men can also suffer from this condition, although it is not as common. Causes of urinary incontinence in men include:

Prostate Cancer Surgery

One of the most common causes of urinary incontinence in men is prostate cancer surgery. The prostate is a small gland located just below the bladder. It produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. Surgery to remove the prostate (a radical prostatectomy) can damage the muscles and nerves that control urinary function. This can lead to both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Enlarged Prostate

An enlarged prostate is a condition that affects many men as they age. The prostate gland can become enlarged due to an increase in hormone levels or abnormal tissue growth. When the prostate gland enlarges, it can put pressure on the urethra and block urine flow. This can cause urinary retention (the inability to empty the bladder) and lead to urinary incontinence.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are small, hard deposits that form in the kidneys. They can cause severe pain and block the flow of urine. This can lead to urinary retention and overflow incontinence (leaking urine when the bladder is full).

Neurological Conditions

Urinary incontinence can also be caused by neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. These conditions can damage the nerves that control urinary function. This can lead to both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Can Bladder Leakage Be Fixed?

The good news is that urinary incontinence is a treatable condition. Several options are available to help you cope with and manage your symptoms. These include:

Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises

Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises, can help to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder. This can help to reduce or eliminate stress incontinence, which is leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing. While there are many different ways to do pelvic floor muscle exercises, the basic premise is the same: contraction and release of the muscles that support the bladder. For best results, aim for three sets of 10 repetitions per day. As with any exercise regimen, it may take a few weeks to see results. But don't give up – the payoff is worth it! Not only will you be able to enjoy activities without worry about leakage, but you'll also be helping to keep your pelvic floor muscles healthy.

Bladder Training

Bladder training is a process that involves gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits. Doing this can help to retrain your bladder and potentially reduce the number of accidents you have. The key is to start small and increase the intervals gradually over time. For example, if you typically go to the bathroom every hour, you would start by lengthening the interval to 90 minutes. Once you can do that consistently, you would then move up to 2 hours, and so on. It's important to be patient and consistent with this process, as it can take some time to see results. But if you stick with it, bladder training can be an effective way to reduce accidents and improve your quality of life.


There are several medications that can be used to treat urinary incontinence, including Myrbetriq, Vesicare, and Enablex. Myrbetriq is an anticholinergic that can help to relax the bladder muscles, reducing leakage. Vesicare is a beta-3 agonist that helps to reduce leakage by stimulating the release of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps to tighten the bladder muscles. Enablex combines an anticholinergic and a beta-3 agonist, making it especially effective at reducing leakage. All three of these medications have been shown to be effective at treating urinary incontinence, and each has its own unique side effects. Talk to your doctor about which medication is right for you.


Surgery is typically a last resort for treating urinary incontinence, but there are some cases where it may be necessary. One example is urethral sling surgery, which can help to support the urethra and reduce leakage. This surgery is usually reserved for women who have had urinary incontinence for many years and have not been able to find relief with other treatments. It is also an option for women who have suffered pelvic organ prolapse, which can cause the urethra to become stretched or damaged. While surgery can be effective, it is important to note that it is not always a cure-all. In some cases, UI may recur after surgery, and additional treatments may be necessary.


If you are suffering from urinary incontinence, it is important to see a doctor. Many people think urinary incontinence is just something they have to live with, but this is not the case. Urinary incontinence is a treatable condition, but it will not go away on its own. With the help of a medical professional, you can find the right treatment for you and start living your life leak-free. Many treatments are available for urinary incontinence, so there is no need to suffer in silence.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.